UK Police Arrest a Man for Alleged Role in Liberia’s Wars

Newcastle in the north-east of England, where the man was arrested -Credit:BBC

By Anthony Stephens, New Narratives Senior Justice Reporter

United Kingdom police have arrested and detained a man in his 40s on war crimes charges for his alleged role in the Liberian civil war in the 1990s and early 2000s.

The arrest of the man, whose name is being withheld by UK Metropolitan police, “follows a referral made to the Met’s War Crimes Team in January 2021 and relates to alleged war crimes committed during the Liberian Civil War in the 1990s and early 2000s,” according to a statement on the website of the Metropolitan Police.

A house in the area of Newcastle, a city in England’s northeast, was searched by officers from UK Counter Terrorism Policing North East unit as part of the investigation into the man. The arrest followed a referral to the Met Police’s war crimes team in January last year.

Justice activist Hassan Billity of the Global Justice Research Group, which has played a key role in the cases against nearly a dozen accused war criminals in Europe and US, declined to comment on the arrest until the police released a name.

The arrest comes two years after the Metropolitan Police charged Jankuba Fofana, a former frontline commander of a rebel group, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy. Now 47, Fofana, was accused by rights activists of ordering the Gbarma Massacre in Gbarpolu County in which 110 people were murdered. He was released by British police shortly after his arrest. The case is still awaiting a trial date. UK courts were slowed by the Covid pandemic.

Like Fofana, the unnamed man is being held “on suspicion of offences contrary to Section 51 of the International Criminal Court Act 2001”. The section covers genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. It applies to anyone who committed these acts in the UK or a UK national or resident who allegedly commits any of those crimes outside the United Kingdom.

Agnes Reeves Taylor, former wife of Charles Taylor and leader of his National Patriotic Front for Liberia, was charged with torture and conspiracy to commit torture during the Liberian civil wars by UK police in 2017. She was held in detention for two and a half years before the case was dismissed on technical grounds. The UK Home Office found there were serious reasons to consider that she had committed a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity and revoked her asylum claim. Taylor returned to Liberia soon after. She has denied all charges against her.

The arrest comes as justice activists await the trial of Kunti K., a former Liberian commander of the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy, which is set to begin on October 10 in Paris, France where he will be tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the First Liberian Civil War between 1989 and 1996.

This story was a collaboration with New Narratives as part of the West Africa Justice Reporting Project.